Senate Dems plan to give Mittens a wedgie

The Hill is reporting that Senate Democrats are planning to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act to the floor this week. The PFA, which is opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and the G.O.P. (and come to think of it, have you ever seen those two institutions in the same place at the same time? just sayin’), would expand the protections enshrined in the Equal Pay Act by, among other things,

allowing employees to compare the pay of male colleagues not only within the same office but also with colleagues in other local offices. A female employee could allege wage discrimination if she is paid less than a male working the same job for the same employer across town.

Unsurprisingly, women’s groups are strongly supportive of the proposed law. It’s a popular piece of legislation, especially among female voters, a group that, in a political season that has been defined by the G.O.P.’s ever-escalating war on women and a widening gender gap between to the two parties, Romney needs to court. So the upcoming vote puts him in a difficult position: he “will either have to split with Republicans and an important business group or take a position that could further erode his support among women.”

The Dems, for once, are playing very smart politics with this. What I don’t understand is why they don’t do this sort of thing more often. One of the signature failures of Harry Reid and the Obama administration has been their reluctance to bring popular legislation to the floor and force Republicans to go on the record opposing it. Using wedge issues to pry apart a political coalition and appeal to swing voters is a tried and true technique. The Bush administration did this kind of thing all to time to Democrats, with great success. Even if there is no possibility that the legislation will pass, political points are scored.

Supporters of the Obama administration certainly have a point when they argue that the President’s effectiveness has been severely hampered by an extraordinarily hostile and recalcitrant Congress. But the President has other powers to move his or her agenda forward, such as appointments, executive orders, and working with Congressional leaders to bring votes to the floor that will put the opposing party on the defensive. My biggest disappointments with the Obama administration have been its failures in these kinds of areas, where the President really does have a lot of control. Which is why I despair when I read about things like this. Or this.

That said, I don’t want to dwell on the negative here. I heartily applaud what the Dems are doing with the Paycheck Fairness Act vote, and I strongly encourage them to wield the wedge a lot more often. Among other things, it help builds morale amongst the base — it’s fun to nail those bastards to the wall and observe their obvious discomfort as they squirm and try to weasel their way out of going on the record. More like this, please!

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee